A few more post-retreat thoughts, this time about gratitude.
As I prepare my home for guests for Thanksgiving, I feel overly busy, as if I have lost a sense of the groundedness I felt on retreat. I certainly know how to return to this place of centeredness, yet the ego barks its commands "To-Do" instead of Be.
And sometimes we just need to put the ego in its place by saying, 'I hear you, but I'm choosing not to listen to you.' I believe there is a difference between hearing and listening. We can "hear" the ego but "listen" to the calling of the soul instead, especially when it invites us to centeredness.
One of the practices that is the most grounding for me is to connect with Mother Nature. I took a few hundred photographs while on retreat because I knew this moment would come—a pivotal time when I'd feel as if I'd lost my sacred footing and would need to re-immerse myself in the spectacular beauty of the Meditation Gardens where I spent so much time in silence. Nature, to me, provides a direct experience of communion with the Divine; with the Cosmic Creative Soul that molded and shaped such splendor. I believe in "Intelligent Design." Reviewing the photos I took there restores me.
You see, when you are on retreat, your body and mind move much more slowly. You can see--really see—what's going on around you in a more light-filled way. There is wonder and a grand sense of awe. And, not surprisingly, what often arises are feelings of gratitude. I noticed this within myself when something quite different greeted my senses. The patterns in tree bark ...
the perfect symmetry of a plant ...
... the incomprehensible uniqueness of thousands of species of growing things.
The heart expands and opens.
Such grandeur! Such ingenuity!
Gratitude bursts forth like a brilliant flower.
In this moment, there is nothing lacking.
You remember, all are of the One.
Thanksgiving blessings to you my lovely friends.
May your eyes and heart see clearly so gratitude can blossom in your own life.
Photos and text © Janice Lynne Lundy, 2013. All Rights Reserved.
As you may know, I have just returned from an extended stay and silent retreat in Southern California —my "second home" near the ocean's heartbeat ... the ocean as Divine Mother who opens us and restores us.
I am still processing much of what I experienced there and will continue to do so slowly, holding near to me that which is most Sacred. Some things are meant to be held more permanently (not shared) and kept close to the heart for safe-keeping. But because many of you, my lovely friends, have asked, "What happened there?" here are some early thoughts on my retreat.
We never know what will happen to us when we embark on such a journey. My highest hope for an in-venture like this is that I remain agenda-less, truly allowing the Sacred to take me where She wishes me to go. She, better than I, knows the inner recesses to which I should travel ... to release anything that continues to hold me back from from living as my truest self in God ... to embrace more of what will carry and keep me there. And thus it was for me.
I entered without a plan, only to receive that which was gifted to me from Graciousness. Admitedly, I was taken by surprise when I found myself struggling greatly the first 24-hours of my silent retreat. Perhaps I had anticipated showers of blessings. What emerged was an overactive ego and a sense of irritation. Nothing was "quite right." There I was in a womb of stunning beauty and I simply could not relax. I wanted to let go into Love and couldn't.
But I kept walking. Sitting. Praying. "Trying" to meditate.
The stillness rubbed against me like a burlap coat. I could not sit. It was inwardly painful. I had to walk out my angst. So walk I did. I walked and walked.
Every path led to the sea—to the Great Cosmic Mother whose roar can startle us open—open to the Vastness within. Whose gentle murmurings of waves wash upon the shore of our hearts to soothe and welcome us. Whose reflected sunsets affirm the Great Soul. And ourselves as soul beings.
In the Ocean of Bliss we remember that we are not separate. Ocean and waves are one. Earth and sky are one. "He She It", "You Me They", are only surface (and human) distinctions. In truth, we are united in the vastness of here, now, and there. The Vastness of This, Always, and Forever.
Holy embrace. Resistance gone. Remembering attuned. Spaciousness found. Humbly crawling on my knees into Vastness.
I am at Home in the Eternal Now.
May it be so for all beings everywhere.
©2013, Janice Lynne Lundy.
Photos by the author. Self-Realization Retreat Center and Meditation Gardens, Encinitas, CA.
As a mother, we can feel oh, so grown up and responsible—often overly responsible! Even though we have children, we may have lost sight of the little girl who lives inside of us. She is still here. Our inner child is ever present and in need of our attention too.
Envision in your mind’s eye, what you looked like as a child. See yourself happy and carefree, having fun! Look carefully at yourself and notice your face and hair, your hands and feet. What are you wearing? What are you doing? How are you enjoying yourself in the moment? Log that image in and hold it in your consciousness.
When you are feeling self-critical, harsh or judgmental toward yourself, call upon this memory of yourself as a little girl. Bring her to mind again and see her very clearly. Be aware of her innocence and sweetness. Be aware of the tenderness you feel toward her.
Now replace that image in your mind’s eye with you—as you are right now. See yourself standing there, the little girl all grown up. Look into your eyes and see her eyes; view your heart and see her sweet little heart. They are still very much here.
Look at the adult you’ve become with “soft eyes,” with eyes of compassion. Regard her with warmth and tenderness. Enfold her energetically with love. Feel that love and welcome yourself “home.”
This is an excerpt from The Mindful Mommy's Back-to-School Survival Guide, but it's good advice for any woman who finds herself being harsh with herself. When in doubt, be loving and kind ... especially to yourself!
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Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.